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St Peter’s Basilica facts – interesting trivia for all


St Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest churches in the world.

It dominates tourism in Rome and is arguably the most stunning building in the city.

More than 5 Million tourists visit this Roman Basilica every year.

People worldwide visit St Peter’s Basilica to experience the grandeur of art, architecture, and culture.

In terms of popularity, St Peter’s Basilica is just behind the Colosseum and well ahead of other Roman attractions such as the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Roman Forum, Borghese Gallery, etc.

Here are some St Peter’s Basilica facts we are sure you didn’t know –

St Peter’s Basilica facts

The St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the greatest Renaissance architectural marvels with its deep-rooted history and cultural significance.

With so much history behind it, some amazing facts about St Peter’s Basilica exist.

Some are documented St Peter’s facts, and some are just legends or myths.

For example, did you know the Pietà in St Peter’s Basilica is the only work Michelangelo ever signed?

Some of these facts are academic, and some are just fun trivia.

1. The current Basilica is NOT the original Basilica

The current St. Peter’s Basilica is not the original Basilica of St. Peter. The original Basilica was built by Emperor Constantine, the Roman Empire’s first Christian emperor.

He built the Basilica in the 4th century on the spot where St Peter was believed to be buried.

However, the church was falling apart by the early Renaissance and was in serious despair.

Then, Pope Julius II decided to tear down the old structure and build a new Basilica in its place.

However, it was not easy for Pope Julius to start the construction. He had to go head to head with the best artist of the time, Michelangelo.

2. St Peter’s Basilica houses Michelangelo’s Pieta

Pietà is a sculpture by Michelangelo from the Renaissance days.

The statue was commissioned for the French Cardinal Jean de Bilhères, who was a representative in Rome.

The masterpiece has been subject to abuse at the St. Peter’s Basilica.

In the early 1700s, four fingers of the statue broke, but they were repaired in 1736.

However, the statue took a major hit in 1972 when a geologist named Laszlo Toth significantly damaged it with a geologist’s hammer.

The statue was restored after this attack and has been carefully protected in bulletproof glass.

3. There are 100+ tombs in St Peter’s Basilica

There are over 100 tombs in St Peter’s Basilica. These include 91 tombs of former popes and tombs of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II and Swedish Queen Christina.

Queen Christina abdicated the throne to convert to Catholicism.

The most prominent one is St Peter’s tomb, on which the Basilica is built.

It is believed that the Gospel spread throughout Europe and then to the whole world from the tomb of St. Peter.

4. St Peter’s Basilica isn’t a Cathedral

The St. Peter’s Basilica isn’t a cathedral or an official seat of the Pope. St. Peter’s Basilica is also not the most prominent of Rome’s Basilicas.

San Giovanni holds both these titles in Laterano (St. John Lateran).

However, since St Peter’s Basilica is next to the residence of the Pope and because of its size, the church’s crucial ceremonies are held there.

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5. The Holy Door opens on special occasions

The holy door at St. Peter’s Basilica is only opened during the holy years – every 25 years. The Pope announces these holy years.

The Holy Door at St Peter’s Basilica was also opened for the Jubilee years in 1933-34 and 1983-84.

When the Holy Door opens, pilgrims enter through the holy door to gain plenary indulgences (an act which reduces the punishment for sins after death).

The Holy Door represents Jesus Christ.

6. 100,000 pounds of bronze was used to build Baldacchino

St.Peters Baldachin
Image: wikimedia.org

Baldacchino is a bronze canopy supported by four spiral columns, richly decorated with gold, which majestically rises upward.

It was the first masterpiece the 26-year-old Gianlorenzo Bernini built for St Peter’s Basilica.

The structure is placed right under the imposing dome of St Peter’s Basilica, making the Baldacchino look small.

Just to give you an idea of their dimensions – the dome is 452 feet high (138 meters), while the Baldacchino is 96 feet (29 meters) tall.

Baldacchino was built using 100,000 pounds (45350 Kgs) of bronze.

7. The artwork inside St. Peter’s Basilica aren’t paintings

None of the artwork inside St. Peter’s Basilica is a painting. They just appear to be paintings.

None of it was painted, from frescoes in the dome to the huge art hanging on the walls.

All this art is mosaics done with so much elaborate detail, and the tesserae (pieces of glass used to make a mosaic) appear to be paintings.

8. Climbing to the top of Michelangelo’s dome isn’t easy

The dome of St Peter’s Basilica dominates the skyline of Rome.

The imposing dome can only be reached by climbing up the 421 steps to reach the top.

The stairs are not easy because they are narrow, and there is no space for railings. There is just one rope, which you can hold for support while climbing.

Recently, an elevator was installed which helps you save 171 steps. Now, if you use the elevator, you only must walk up 250 steps.

9. The colonnade has about 140 statues

The top of the colonnade outside the St Peter’s Basilica has about 140 statues of various saints.

These statues were built over 41 years – from 1662 to 1703.

Various artists created the statues, but only the names of some of the artists were recorded.

10. The feet of St Peter’s statue has worn thin

St. Peter’s statue at the Basilica is portrayed as blessing the pilgrims even as he holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

Pilgrims visiting St Peter’s Basilica have traditionally touched and kissed the statue’s feet.

Usually, the pilgrims touch his feet, asking him to be merciful and open the gates of heaven for them once they die.

With millions of pilgrims having touched their feet, they have worn thin.

11. The center door was part of old Basilica

The central door of the current basilica was used in the earlier basilica, which was built in the same spot.

It was made by Florentine artist Antonio Averulino (also known as Filarete) around 1455.

The elegant workmanship on the central door is a hymn to Christ, the Virgin Mary and the apostles Peter and Paul.

This €29, self-guided tour ticket helps avoid long waiting lines.

This guided tour of St Peter’s Basilica costs €44 per person

Check out more combo tours and guided tours at St Peter’s Basilica.

# Walksofitaly.com
# Britannica.com
# Wikipedia.org

The travel specialists at TheBetterVacation.com use only high-quality sources while researching & writing their articles. We make every attempt to keep our content current, reliable and trustworthy.

Tourist attractions in Rome

Pompeii Colosseum Vatican Museums
Sistine Chapel St Peters Basilica Roman Forum
Capitoline Museum Castel Sant Angelo Borghese Gallery
Catacombs of Rome Pantheon Rome Mamertine Prison
Da Vinci Experience Gladiator School Aquafelix Waterpark
Catacombs of San Sebastiano Catacombs of Priscilla Callixtus Catacombs
Museum of Illusions Palace of Castel Gandolfo Zoomarine Rome
Trevi Fountain Capuchin Crypt Villa d’Este in Tivoli
Domus Aurea Olympic Stadium Palazzo Colonna
Villa Adriana Bioparco di Roma Doria Pamphilj Gallery
Basilica of San Giovanni National Etruscan Museum Stadium of Domitian
Da Vinci Exhibition La Traviata Opera Palazzo Cipolla

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This article was researched & written by

Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

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